James Dowden's Biblioblog

An Anglican layman and total Biblical Studies amateur posts on stuff he finds interesting in the Bible

Month: January, 2014

Attempting to Visualize the Synoptic Problem, Part Two

Seeing as this seems to be almost driving my traffic into double figures, and as Joel Watts has kindly linked to me (I am sure these things are not unconnected!), I’ll post another visualization of one gospel author’s redaction of what went before. In case anyone hadn’t guessed, here is Luke’s treatment of the same six chapters of Mark that I posted Matthew’s treatment of earlier:

ImageImmediately the picture is of a lot more blue: generally, Luke follows Mark, as I hinted at earlier. There are a few instances of Luke moving sections earlier (green) or later (purple) after an apparently piecemeal and variably successful fashion, but there is no wholesale disruption of long sections of Mark as we saw with Matthew (look for the red in the middle for Matthew’s disruption to Mark’s order). In a lighter blue, we also see some Marcan passages that Matthew had omitted retained.

Two other features are notable. Firstly, we can see two blocks of Luke working primarily with Matthew. The first, coloured mainly in dark blue, because the Aland SQE numbers aren’t fine-grained enough to pick it up (and I can’t be bothered to try to redo that work!), is the Baptism and Peirasmos account, where Luke evidently preferred Matthew’s more expansive storyline. The second is of course the Sermon on the Plain/Mount, including a local agreement in order with Matthew against Mark.

Secondly, at the bottom of the visualization, we see Luke’s aversion to doublets creeping in. Neither doublet introduced by Matthew has made it into Luke, and with the grey starting at the bottom, we see the beginning of the condensing of the Feedings of the 5000 and 4000 into a single account. For sake of consistency, and for sake of not having loads of purple arrows flying off the bottom of the diagram, I have stopped at the end of Mark 6.

Now, maybe, just maybe, I’ll get around to the left over bits of Matthew…

Attempting to Visualize the Synoptic Problem

Over at the Jesus Blog, there’s been a lively discussion (and now a poll!) on whether Farrer theorists are still in a minority. I thoroughly expect that we are, and so I’ll preëmptively start harping on about why we’re right again.

Part of the problem is perception: Luke’s order’s being different from Matthew’s order gets mentioned frequently in discussions of the Synoptic Problem. What is less often mentioned is that Matthew is not simply Mark with a few discourses interpolated, but radically reörders the early part of Mark.

This reördering is incredibly difficult to visualize, but I’ve had a go at it below. One of the most difficult decisions was not to expand the discourses (although there are plenty of interesting things going on within them) and focus only on the surrounding narrative. It should hopefully be pretty self-explantory, but here’s a brief key in case it isn’t:

  • BLUE – Matthew copying Mark in order
  • GREY – Marcan material omitted by Matthew
  • BLACK – Matthew’s non-Marcan material
  • GOLD – Material Matthew has redeployed in discourse settings
  • YELLOW-GREEN – The Call of the Disciples, merged by Matthew into their Commission
  • RED – A massive block of material that Matthew has brought forward to various locations
  • TURQUOISE – A minor consequential flip
  • PURPLES – Doubletty stuff

ImageSo, on the basis of the Farrer Theory, Luke had three choices for which order to base his own on:

  1. Mark’s order;
  2. Matthew’s order; or:
  3. invent a completely new order.

As it happens, he generally went for option 1: Mark’s order. It’s easy enough to see why this is an appealing choice: that first Sabbath day at Capernaum is an incredibly powerful story, whereas Matthew’s fronted Sermon to an unexplained crowd doesn’t work particularly well. But this leaves an obvious problem: what on earth was Luke to do with anything he found appealing in all that material in black?

To be continued, maybe, if I can ever create a visualization of how the next step in gospel composition worked that isn’t too intimidatingly large…

tl;dr: Q theorists are happy for Matthew to know and reörder Mark, but not for Luke to know and reörder Matthew. Hypocrites! They will be cast out to outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth!